[Image]  The Rev. Dr. DANIEL HÖRNEMANN, OSB  

Lest We Forget
in remembrance of our victims of war and accidents

New Memorial Plaque for Gerleve Abbey

The old stone memorial-plaques in the monastery’s cemetery were severely weathered, illegible, and in some details incorrect. After extensive research into the fates of the Gerleve brethren by Father Daniel Hörnemann many new facts came to light. Through the generous donation of Kurt and Lilly Ernsting from Coesfeld-Lette, the realization of a memorial plaque became possible. The Benedictine community favoured the design of the Cologne artist Anna Pauli. In an excellent collaboration with the artist and with Christoph Sander of the Stained Glass workshop Peters at Paderborn the new masterpiece was created. During a special ceremony, the community gathered in the cloister just before Easter 2009 after Vespers, together with Mrs. and Mr. Ernsting. Father Prior Laurentius Schlieker blessed the plaque.


“Memoria”, remembrance - memory – only those, whose names will no longer be thought about or spoken, are really dead and forgotten.

19 names and thus 19 Gerleve fates are listed on this glass table. They are not forgotten, even if today the vast majority of us no longer personally knew these brothers.

Their death occurred in the period from 1905 to 1987. The youngest was just 23 years old. They found their grave in a foreign soil. Some of these fates could be tracked and final resting places could be discovered, others remain hidden until now. We have no more than an idea, where these missing persons may lay buried. Of the 19 dead there are 5 victims of Word War I and 10 of World War II (see my article: Those They Longed For - there is a link to it at the end of this article).

In an area characterized by different entrances or exits, the doors to the sacristy, the library, the garden and the monastery cemetery and the access to the cloister, a new "door" has now been added. A glass portal to eternity. A door of faith in life beyond death, of hope for the resurrection, and love overcoming all the suffering and forgetfulness. The dark black paint is getting lighter, the glass is becoming translucent. There are 19 golden leaves to be found.


A layer of gold covers the black glass of these leaves. By engraving the names and dates of our brothers the black is coming through again, but the gold, the colour of light and eternity, is predominant. The handwriting gives each leaf a special note, because it is about individuals who contributed in their own way to the life and work of Abbey Gerleve. One cannot grasp a fate in passing. In order to understand something about a person, I must stay with him. To get to know something about these 19 fates, one must find the right position to be able to read the individual leaves. Glass and gold are reflecting the light, they also reflect the face of the beholder and remind him: "I also could be one of them!"


On the glass panel there is still space, but may it never happen again that war, or any other type of fate occurs, where brethren are becoming new victims, whose names will have to be recorded here.

The essence remains the paschal perspective of our faith: "Rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven" (Luke 10.20), inscribed in the memory of God.

Only if one bends down, in the right angle and with the right light, one will discover at the bottom of the glass panel the engraved lettering: You have died, but your life is hidden with Christ in God (Col 3.3).

For a link to Daniel's earlier article about the fate of the Brothers of the Benedictine Abbey at Gerleve, Germany, who went missing during their military service. Click Here.

For a direct link to the author of this article, email Daniel Hörnemann

Text and photographs Copyright ©  The Rev. Dr. Daniel Hörnemann, OSB, October, 2009

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